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Investing despite the economic crisis: Swiss SMEs in Russia

Russia’s current economy presents real challenges. Yet some Swiss SMEs, like Mobatime Systems, are investing despite the economic crisis so as to be part of the next upswing

Mobatime Systems was founded in St. Petersburg in 2003. The company sells, installs and services clocks and time systems in Russia manufactured by Moser-Baer AG based out of Sumiswald. Mobatime Systems' next step was to launch licensed production for parts of products locally in Russia. It urgently needed to find production facilities in St. Petersburg. Following extensive discussions, a suitable property was found in 2009. The renovations were partly financed by a CHF loan from Moser-Baer AG.

Despite the Russian ruble's substantial devaluation against the Swiss franc, dedication and key project successes in the market saw the team at Mobatime Systems always meet its subsequent repayment obligations as per the agreement. Consequently, the company will have repaid the loan in full plus interest by the end of 2017.

Since Mobatime Systems only uses part of the property, it came up with the idea of a "Mobahaus" with integrated "Technopark". Bringing in other companies was intended to capture synergy effects in metal engineering, electronics, small series and prototype construction. It also gave foreign businesses the ability to 'localize' part of their production for Russia in the Swiss Technopark. Numerous firms have already settled or have prototypes of new ideas built there (e.g. special refrigerated containers for delivering online grocery orders). Companies from Switzerland and Finland have also shown interest.

To develop the concept further, Mobatime Systems decided to add another building. In spite of the current crisis, Mobatime Systems received an additional loan for this extension from Moser-Baer AG, which was again paid out in Swiss francs. Construction is expected to finish mid-2016.

To sum up: Mobatime Systems is pursuing the following long-term business strategy through its Mobahaus and Technopark

  • gradually consolidate local production and localization to maintain a competitive advantage over competitors.
  • Develop specific know-how for the local market (e.g., one-of-a-kind turret clocks for towers)
  • Diversify the business model with three business areas: 1. Mobatime Systems; 2. Income and synergies via Swiss Technopark; 3. Small series/prototype construction

Conclusion: As an SME, surviving the crisis means making investments at the right time so as to be ready to profit from new business opportunities during Russia’s next economic upswing!

Country consulting: Russia (various dates in May)

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